Sunday, February 15, 2009


Just back from a lightning-brief trip to Montreal for an audition. How did it go? Not well. Do you ever have days when everything you say comes out wrong? Clunky, graceless, mixed-up, unclear? Well, sometimes dancing is like that too, and everything you do is just not right.

Montreal is one of my favourite cities though, and it's full of wonderful things:

1. Random strangeness. This is the side of one of those stores that sell clothes made out of hemp, and felted slippers made out of humanely raised wool, and incense, and meditation cds. And that's my sister wielding a baugette.

2. My very favourite croissants in the world so far. I'm a pastry fiend and would probably live off butter croissants if I weren't convinced that such a diet would make me feel like a sluggish lump. The croissants here are the most satisfying cross between crisp, flaky layers that crackle under your teeth and steamy, chewy, butter-scented warmth. They are glorious. The bakery is tiny and the windows are always steamed up and it's full of sweet, French-speaking bakery people who look as if they have just stepped out of some enchanted sweetshop.

3. Gender Mannequin
This shopfront is on Sherbrooke, near St. Laurent. I've never been inside, but the window displays are always so strange and so outrageous. They're completely different from the inside of the shop, which is spare and populated by groupings of pale, still mannequins in an assortment of sizes and shapes. There was also a clump of male torsos made out of clear plastic and lit from within by different colored bulbs.

4. Bily Kun, a bar on Mont Royal that has taxidermied ostrich heads mounted on the wall.

5. The lavish use of the word "donc," which I just like the sound of.

6. My sister and I decided that Montreal has an above average percentage of attractive young men. We couldn't decide if this was because we were walking around near a university, or if the cold had somehow transformed them, or if they were all just genetically fortunate. In the end, my sister declared it to be a similarity to the distinctive French nose: large, but elegant, and somehow good for balancing a face on.

7. There was a man who came into the coffee shop that we were haunting. He had long, wavy hair and a scruffy face. He spent ten minutes sorting through the basket of morning papers, setting aside a small stack of sections that he found acceptable before getting his coffee and taking a seat by the window. Instead of reading his paper, he whipped out a comb and a hand mirror and spent the next several minutes combing his hair with luxurious flicks of his wrist and long gazes into the mirror. He looked like a pirate (or, as my sister says, like an extra from Pirates of The Caribbean who walked into the Lord Of The Rings makeup trailer), but was acting like a mermaid. It was fascinating.

One of the strangest things is how you go through U.S. customs in the Canadian airport when you depart. There are signs everywhere saying, "Welcome to the United States," with the seal of the Homeland Security or State Department or whichever agency it is; but as soon as you're through the gates, you're back in Canada, under a wash of bi-lingual French and English, and waiting for a plane to actually take you home.

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